Always Dreaming is the odds-on favourite to win the 2017 Preakness Stakes and go two-thirds of the way to a Triple Crown triumph.
After running away with the Kentucky Derby on May 6, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt was always going to be at the top of the betting order for the Pimilico showpiece. Having been drawn in Post 4, there'll likely be even more money placed on a horse that has been supreme in his racing career so far.
Still, there are some familiar names in this field and some competitors be hopeful of spoiling any hopes of a second Triple Crown win in the space of three years.
On the cusp of the big race here's the Preakness Stakes field in full, the latest odds and a closer look at a couple of horses with the potential to win in Baltimore.
|Preakness Stakes 2017: Posts and Odds|
|Post Position, Horse||Odds||Prediction|
|2. Cloud Computing||20-1||9.|
|4. Always Dreaming||10-11||1.|
|5. Classic Empire||4-1||2.|
|7. Term of Art||25-1||8.|
|8. Senior Investment||25-1||7.|
|9. Lookin At Lee||11-1||3.|
|10. Conquest Mo Money||16-1||6.|
Odds are according to OddsShark
On a sloppy course at Churchill Downs, Always Dreaming hit the front in the Kentucky Derby and left a high-quality field in his wake. It's why it's tough to see many of the other nine horses at Preakness posing much of a challenge here.
There haven't been too many signs that Always Dreaming is feeling the effects of that heroic Derby performance.
As noted by Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form, the Kentucky winner looked in excellent shape at the start of the week, although he has continued to improve as the race has got closer:
Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
Thought Always Dreaming sharper today than yesterday, and he was very good yesterday. Seems like dynamite ready to explode when lit. #ready2017-5-18 09:53:12
"He's shown us everything we were hoping for leading us back in two weeks," beamed Pletcher of Always Dreaming on Thursday, per John Cherwa of the Los Angeles Times. "Tank seems full. He seems eager to go. We're just trying to keep him on the ground one more day."
There are potential hurdles that Always Dreaming and jockey John Velazquez will have to overcome if they are to keep hopes of a Triple Crown alive. The corners are tighter for starters, while the shorter distance should bring others in to play.
But this horse has shown speed, staying power and an adaptability to so many different situations. Always Dreaming will be too strong as a result.
Given his pedigree pre-Kentucky, it was no shock to see Classic Empire among the favourites to win the big one at Churchill Downs. But his race was over before it begun in earnest.
Classic Empire was bumped coming out of the traps and consequently fell a long way down the field. While it was never going to be his day from that point on, the colt showed the pace needed to come home in third position.
It's left plenty wondering what he could do with a clear run, and the fact he'll be alongside Always Dreaming in Post 5 should make for a fascinating start to Preakness. If he's up there in the closing stages, Classic Empire has shown the raw speed required to go toe-to-toe with the favourite.
As relayed by Jeremy Balan of BloodHorse.com, Classic Empire's exercise rider, Martin Rivera, is pleased with how he's gone so far:
Jeremy Balan @BH_JBalan
Exercise rider Martin Rivera says Classic Empire's gallop today @ Pimlico was better than any of his @ CD. Gaining strength & aggressiveness2017-5-16 11:09:33
"The champ's been knocked down," said trainer Mark E. Casse after the post draw, per Tim Sullivan of USA Today. "And he's gonna come back and fight and try to take back the crown."
There are some small doubts as to whether Classic Empire is fully fit, though. As reported by Brisnet, after the Derby he suffered an eye problem, meaning he was unable to fully open it. However, his very inclusion in the race suggests the colt is over the trauma.
Lookin at Lee was clinging on to the coattails of Always Dreaming in Kentucky and many will expect him to be the closest challenger to the favourite here. Classic Empire, though, has enough to go close. Sadly for those backing him, it won't quite be close enough.